Everest Base Camp - Day 2 (Phakding - Namche Bazaar)
Namche Bazaar Travel Blog› entry 68 of 136 › view all entries
We got started pretty early in the morning, starting to walk right at 8:00 AM. As we left Phakding we crossed the Dudh Kosi via the first of 5 suspension bridges on our way towards Namche Bazaar. The trail continued up and down as we progressed upstream along the river, never settling at any one constant elevation. Of course we were always trending upward.
Lots of people on the trail. As opposed to the Annapurna Circuit, the Everest Base Camp trek is principally up and back so there were groups of people both ascending like we were and descending all day long. Throw in all the yak trains and porters and it was almost a traffic jam on the trail in many locations.
We passed through several more picturesque villages and finally crossed into Sagarmatha National Park proper (Sagarmatha being the Nepali name for Everest - Everest also has a third, Tibetan name, Chomlungma). While our guide took care of getting our NP/trekking passes, we explored the visitor center with a small 3-D model of the park and all the peaks. Its amazing how Everest and the surrounding peaks tower over everything else, especially where we are located and realizing how much we have to climb just to reach base camp, let alone the summit of Everest itself.
Shortly after the park entrance we stopped in Jorsale (2740m, 8990 ft). We crossed the 3rd bridge coming into this village and enjoyed a wonderful lunch and some warm, sunny weather outside on the porch.
And then finally Namche Bazaar came into view. An amazingly large town this far from roads, and intricately laid out on the bowl shaped hillside. As I would find out getting around in this town left one breathless from all the stairs I had to climb getting from one place to another.
Unfortunately we had some bad news today as well. While eating dinner, one of our members, Scott, passed out. Later while recovering he passed out again. He appeared to recover some after that, butthe unknown cause and the danger in going further and higher meant that he would be heading back to Lukla in the morning with one of the assistant guides instead of going forward.
It's difficult to explain the effects that altitude has on an individual. From sluggishness and dizziness to headaches to loss of appetite and a multitude of other symptoms it affects each person in a unique way. In short the body just isn't getting enough oxygen and is affected by the reduced air pressure and as you go further up this problem is exacerbated. Some people will start to show mild symptoms as low as 2500m (8200 ft), but as we went over twice as high on both treks we had to be especially careful.
There are two severe cases that can develop - HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) where fluid begins to build in the lungs and HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) where swelling and fluid affects the brain.
The human body eventually reacts to the altitude by producing additional red blood cells to utilize more of the available oxygen that is inhaled. Until that time the best way to get more oxygen is to breath more rapidly. I took acetazolamide (Diamox) on the Annapurna Circuit to help and an occasional tablet on the way up to Base Camp to help me acclimate when I had some symptoms myself. Overall I felt pretty good about my acclimitization. I did have the occasional mild headache but beyond that nothing like dizziness or fatigue or shortness of breath at rest. I did get sick on the way up to the pass during the Annapurna Circuit but all the time I thought that was something I ate as opposed to any affect of altitude.
If one does intend to trek at high altitudes like the Himalayas or the high Andes (or elsewhere), learn to listen to your body and understand the symptoms. And ascend slowly. Don't over-exert on the climbs and wear yourself out needlessly. Take acclimitization days to let you body get used to the altitude. And just be careful!